Being an air traffic controller is a very stressful job that requires a lot of the professionals that do the job everyday. They must have the highest level of focus, decision making, and critical thinking, while being under intense pressure. As with many jobs in the aviation industry, the focus on safety means that there are more restrictions on who can and can’t qualify for certain jobs.
There are many rumors and discussion about air traffic controllers and how old you have to be to get hired into the role.
So, what are the age requirements for an air traffic controller?
In order to be hired as an air traffic controller you must be younger than 31 years old. The maximum age you can be and work as an air traffic controller is 56.
Now that you know what the age restrictions are, let’s take a closer look at them as well as the reasons behind the restrictions.
Maximum Age to be Hired
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires you to be 30 or younger at the close of the application window to become an air traffic controller.
If you have already celebrated your 31st birthday you are not eligible to apply to become an air traffic controller. The one exception to this is if you were previously an air traffic controller and are applying to be re-hired. In this case you can be older than 30 and still be hired.
Minimum Age Requirement
While the FAA does not have a specific minimum age listed to become an air traffic controller, it does have other requirements that you must meet to be hired.
Meeting the educational and work requirements alone would guarantee that you are at least 21 years of age. Those requirements include you either earning a bachelor’s degree or having 3 years of “progressively responsible” work experience.
Reason for Age Restrictions
Being an air traffic controller is one of the few jobs that has both a maximum age you can start the career and and a maximum age you can do the job before being required to retire.
There are several reasons for this.
Being an air traffic controller is considered one of the most stressful jobs in the world. It requires intense focus and has little room for error. A single mistake can jeopardize the lives of hundreds of passengers.
Because of this, the training for a new air traffic controller is also very intense and difficult. The FAA has determined that as you get older, your ability to learn and train effectively to do the job becomes more and more difficult. Requiring new trainees to be under 31 helps make sure that new trainees can get through training and have the capacity to learn quickly and perform the job effectively.
The other reason for the maximum age to get started is (be under 31) is that since there is a maximum age of 56 for ATC’s, the FAA doesn’t want someone to start as a new ATC, train them, and then have to have them retire so soon after. Requiring new trainees are under 31 years old means they can get a full 25 years of work in before they hit the required retirement age of 56.
Maximum Age to be an Air Traffic Controller
The maximum age for an air traffic controller is 56 years old.
Air traffic controllers are required to retire when they turn 56. This is due to the stress and mental capacity the job requires. Studies show that things like your focus, reaction time, and decision making deteriorate as you get older.
As you age, working as an air traffic controller can create a situation where you lack the ability to continue to perform the job at the highest level and that could result in an unsafe situation for passengers and the crews that depend on air traffic controllers.
Due to the mental and physical demand of being an air traffic controller, the FAA has established strict regulations for the age to get hired as an air traffic controller and at what age you are required to retire. This allows for air traffic controllers to retire younger than many other professions and ensures that air travel maintains it’s focus on safety for the passengers and their crew.